Back to the top


Rest In Peace Al Abrams, Motown’s First Publicist

Hype & Soul by Al AbramsAl Abrams​ was such a great guy. I interviewed him for a couple of stories about Motown, and he was always funny and very excited, not only about the history he helped create, but about the future of music in Detroit. I’m glad to have known him.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Al Abrams was Motown before Motown even had its name.

Abrams, the first employee of Berry Gordy Jr. and the man who pushed artists like the Supremes and Stevie Wonder into news headlines around the world, died Saturday morning at home in Findlay, Ohio. He was 74.

The Detroit-born Abrams was the first press officer for Gordy’s Motown Records, grabbing media coverage and airplay for the fledgling label and its stable of young stars — and helping blast through entrenched racial walls in the process.

Continue reading

VIDEO: Rest In The Funk Terry Thunder Hughley

terrythunderI am terribly saddened to hear that powerhouse Detroit drummer Terry Thunder Hughley made his transition today. Always ready with that winning smile and his righteous pocket, Terry anchored Detroit’s legendary Sun Messengers, and was also the house drummer for the Detroit Pistons, and through his illustrious career he supplied the rhythm for David Ruffin, 5 Special, Enchantment,The Dramatics, The Platters, L. J. Reynolds, New Birth, Little Carl Carlton, Mitch Ryder, Black Merda, Bobby Franklin’s Insanity, The Drifters, The Coasters, Kim Weston, Ollie Woodson of the Temptations, Sir Mack Rice, and many more.

Our paths really didn’t cross that often, but Terry was one of those cats who walks in the room, and you know he’s about to handle his business. He would laugh and joke, but when he hit that snare drum, you knew he was very serious about his craft.

We laughed that we were finally able to jam together when Steffanie Christi’an and I appeared as part of the 2014  Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue, as Terry manned his customary spot on the drummer’s throne. Watch the video of our performance of Bob Seger’s “Lookin’ Back” below.

Terry’s presence was as impactful as his playing, and he will be deeply missed. Rest In The Funk, Terry Thunder.


Why Black History Matters: An Ambassador Roundtable Discussion

Why is there still a need for Black History Month? Our panel of experts listed the continuing removal of black contributions from American history, America’s fear of black men, and the whitewashing of Detroit as just a few reasons.

Originally Published in Ambassador Magazine
Written by J. NadirOmowale
Photos by Andrew Potter

Ambassador Magazine Roundtable - Jan/Feb 2015 Group Photo
Ambassador Magazine Roundtable – Jan/Feb 2015 Group Photo by Andrew Potter. Left to right: Satori Shakoor, Ken Harris, Kidada Williams, Valerie Mercer, Marsha Music, Paul Rogers, Deborah Smith Pollard, (not pictured) Juanita Moore.

The January/February 2015 Ambassador Magazine Roundtable convened at a pivotal moment in American history – and in the  history of Detroit. As we gathered to discuss the importance of African American History Month with an esteemed group of historians and scholars, race occupied the center of our national conversation.

The public erupted into spontaneous protest after a series of high-profile killings of African American men and boys by police, highlighting the longstanding American tradition of police violence against the black community. And instead of ushering in a post-racial era in America, racial tensions were intensified and will forever color the legacy of Barack Obama – the country’s first African American president. Hashtags and slogans like #BlackLivesMatter, #ICantBreathe and #WhitePrivilege peppered social media and the nation’s consciousness.

Closer to home, as a resurgent Detroit emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history – forever the phoenix shaking off the ashes – questions and accusations surrounded the complexion of the city’s latest renaissance. Was there room in the whiter, more affluent “New Detroit” for the city’s majority population of working-class African Americans?

If there were two things learned in the boardroom at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, one was that history is about more than assorted dates and facts. Understanding the historical context of an event is often as important as the study of the event itself. The second was that, often, the histories that are excluded from our textbooks give a more accurate representation of what really happened. Continue reading

Fewer and Fewer Children Are Playing Piano


More bad news for all you musicians out there looking for a new keyboard player. Fewer children are playing piano these days. It’s a shame because piano is a great instrument for all of us to learn, not just musicians. Playing a musical instrument benefits your brain tremendously, and piano is one of the best.

We will force our twins to learn piano as all good parents should, but alas, our plan is to move in my mom’s old upright.

So we will contribute to the shortage of keyboard players, and improve our children’s academic outcomes, but we’ll do nothing to help the shortage of piano stores. Sorry.


Do Artists Avoid Message Music For Fear Of Being Blackballed?

imageDo Artists Avoid Message Music For Fear Of Being Blackballed?

The short answer is “Yes”. Of course, I’m an artist who has never avoided  writing what they used to (and what others, including Patrick Flane7ry at, apparently still do) call “protest music”. But indie and major label artists alike tend to shy away from controversial material.

Have I lost opportunities because I’m labeled too political? Probably. Is that going to make me stop saying what needs to be said? Not a chance.

If I don’t say it who else will? If no one speaks up, how will we change the world?

Questlove: Fear of Being Blackballed Prevents Artists From Releasing Protest Music

© Nadir Omowale